Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The text for our consideration this morning is the Epistle.

Corinth was a broken congregation.  They were divided over a great many things, and one of these things that divided them was the Lord’s Supper.  Some members of the congregation were not waiting for other members of the congregation.  They were just going ahead and doing their own thing.

Now, part of this was probably social realities.  In the Roman Empire, the rich didn’t associate with the poor.  The rich didn’t work.  They considered it shameful to work, and so, because the poor had to work, they didn’t want to have anything to do with them.  And so, the rich were probably there celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and since there was no such thing as time off in Rome, the poor came later, and by that time, the rich had consumed everything.  And so, in so doing, the members at Corinth sinned against the body and blood of the Lord.  They pretended that there were no divisions among them, when in fact they were deeply, deeply divided.

And so what does Paul do?  How does he address this problem?  He points the Corinthians, and he points you, and he points me, to the Words of Institution, those words which Jesus said the night He established the Lord’s Supper, and those words which you and I hear every time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.  Paul writes:  “The Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same way also, He took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'”

And so, what’s Paul trying to do with this?  What is he trying to prove?  Well, the first thing he tries to prove is what Jesus Himself says.  You see, when Jesus says, “This is My body; this is My blood,” He means it.  This isn’t just a remembrance, this isn’t just some sort of symbol, but when you receive the bread and when you receive the wine in the Lord’s Supper, you receive God Himself.  Jesus Christ gives His own body in the Lord’s Supper, and He does it to forgive you your sins.

When He gives you His own body, He means for it to strengthen your faith.  He means to sustain that faith through all adversities.  And He creates real unity within the Lord’s Supper, not a fake unity that plasters over the differences, like the Corinthians did, but a real unity, because God Himself is not divided.  And because He is not divided, His Church, as His Body, is not divided.  And when He unites His Church into one Body, He not only unites them one with another, but He unites them in one mind, so that we believe the same things, because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

But the Corinthians’ sin was that they wanted to hold on to their divisions.  They wanted to pretend that they weren’t there.  And so, because they held on to their divisions and went to the place where God intended to create unity, that is how they sinned against the body and blood of the Lord.

Now, you and I also struggle with division.  We are tempted to be divided from each other.  These divisions could be something personal.  Maybe you have that neighbor that you just can’t say anything good about.  Or that neighbor that you gossip about.  Or that neighbor that you just can’t seem to let go of that grudge.  It could even be something just like holding on to a sin that you don’t think is all that big of a deal.

These divisions could also be division among Christians.  I mean, after all, it’s a very sad reality that Christianity is deeply divided.  One group says one thing and another group says another thing, and there seems to be just divisions everywhere.  This is not something to be happy about.  We’re very sad that Christianity is divided, but we can’t pretend as if it is not.

So, what can you and I do?  Well, you and I can do nothing, because we are divided by nature from God and from one another.  But Jesus Christ came down, and He died on the cross for your sins, to reunite us to one another, to reunite us with God, to forgive us our sins.  And so this unity which we have in Christ is not a fake unity, but a very real unity, because you and I, as the members of Body of Christ, are truly united in God.

And so when we deal with our divisions which sin creates in this world, the answer is not to pretend that they’re not there, but the answer is to confess, to confess that we are sinners by nature.  And when we do that and acknowledge that we are divided, God is faithful and just, and He will forgive our sins.

And so the Corinthians tried to hide those divisions.  They tried to pretend like the divisions didn’t exist, and that is why Paul condemns them.  But in Christ, there is no division.  So come, Christians, come and confess your sins before God your Father.  Come and receive the forgiveness which He offers you in the Word and the Sacraments.  Come and be united into His Body, the Church.  And there you will find a real unity, a unity which exists on earth and in heaven.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.